People often ask if narcissists are born or made. Although the answer to this question is not straightforward and requires deeper understanding, it is widely accepted that narcissism develops from interaction of both nature and nurture.
- Nature provides general traits and tendencies while the environment shapes one’s unique characteristics and behaviors.
- Thus, although narcissistic traits may be hard-wired by biology, they require environmental experience to tell whether that predisposition will really be expressed in someone’s personality and behavior.
It is generally agreed that some people are predisposed to being narcissistic due to genetic factors or psychological trauma in their childhood, whereas other people develop narcissistic behaviors as a result of their environment as they grow older. While research has yet to provide definitive answers, these two theories suggest there may be an underlying biological component or outside influences at play when it comes to narcissism.
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterized by self-absorption, grandiosity, and the need for admiration. People with this disorder have distorted views of their own worth, often overestimating their own importance to an extreme degree. They also tend to overreact to criticism, have difficulty regulating their emotions, and lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
It’s important to understand the concept of narcissism in order to answer the question of whether narcissists are born or made.
Narcissism is a personality trait which includes an excessive need for admiration, superiority, and self-importance. It may also involve an unrealistic sense of entitlement and a preoccupation with grandiosity. People with this trait can be seen as arrogant, egotistical, overconfident, vain and perpetually in search of the spotlight.
Although some aspects of narcissism can be beneficial to certain situations such as leadership roles, too much narcissism has been associated with relationship difficulties, aggression, low emotional intelligence and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Narcissists tend to possess a range of traits including:
- Vanity, and
In addition to this they have an inflated sense of self-esteem which often leads to a lack of empathy for others. Finally they are often unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their own behavior or actions when things don’t go their way.
Narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by an excessive sense of self-importance, need for admiration, and lack of empathy. People with this disorder generally show a pattern of grandiosity in their beliefs and behavior, and often display a strong need for attention or admiration from others.
The symptoms of narcissism can vary slightly depending on the type of disorder – either grandiose (malignant) or vulnerable (covert). In general, some common symptoms include:
- A heightened sense of self-importance
- Easily triggered feelings of envy or resentment towards others
- A need to be the center of attention
- Difficulty recognizing the feelings and needs of other people
- An expectation that special treatment should be given to them by others
- Expressions of disdain and contempt towards other people
- Exaggerating accomplishments or talents
- Manipulative behaviour in relationships
Causes of Narcissism
Narcissism is a personality disorder that is characterised by an excessive need for admiration, exaggerated sense of self-importance, and a lack of empathy for others. While there is no single “cause” of narcissism, it is generally accepted that it can be caused by a combination of hereditary, environmental, and psychosocial factors.
In this article, we will explore the various causes of narcissism and how they can contribute to the development of the disorder:
Recent research has shown that narcissistic traits may be partially genetic and biological in origin. Studies have identified a number of biological factors which may contribute to the development of narcissistic traits such as a higher volume of gray matter in certain parts of the brain, low levels of serotonin, lower heart rate variability, and higher levels of testosterone.
It is thought that these factors, combined with environmental influences, could lead to the development of narcissistic traits. For example, people with higher levels of testosterone tend to show more assertive behavior which can be seen as arrogant or self-aggrandizing when taken too far. Additionally, those with higher levels of serotonin have been found to be less sensitive to criticism and feedback from others which can lead to an overly positive sense self-importance.
Overall it appears that narcissism is a combination of both heritable and environmental factors which form the basis for its different manifestations. Research into the biological causes has increased significantly over the past decade but much more research is needed in order to fully understand these relationships and better comprehend why people become narcissists.
The debate between nature versus nurture has long been a source of contention; which factor holds more sway in the personality of an individual? On the one hand, it could be argued that inheriting certain genes gives us certain predispositions toward behavior and psychological traits. On the other, some research indicates that our environments – including our upbringing, socio-economic status and peer groups – may shape some aspects of our personality. In terms of narcissism, research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors may play a role.
Environmental Factors: Narcissism as a dysfunctional trait has been associated with several different environmental factors. For example, researchers have found that a lack of parental affection during early developmental years can lead to higher levels of narcissism. Also, people who come from high-status families or hold higher socio-economic status tend to exhibit heightened levels of grandiosity and power seeking behaviors; however, this type of behavior is not categorized as narcissistic in the clinical sense but could suggest traits towards narcissistic tendencies and may set someone up for psychiatric disorders in later life. Other environmental triggers such as poor parenting, frequent criticism/disapproval or neglect/rejection are all linked to increased levels of narcissism. Additionally, social media use has recently been linked to narcissism, presumably due to its emphasis on displaying an idealized persona online rather than focusing on true self-reflection and growth within oneself.
Psychological factors are some of the leading components that contribute to a person’s development of narcissism. Some psychologists have argued that childhood traumas and an unstable familial environment are influential in the development of narcissistic traits. Evidence has shown a correlation between certain forms of abuse, such as sexual abuse, and the formation of narcissistic traits.
A lack of warmth and affection from caregivers along with an overall unstable home environment can further serves to cause narcissism. Insufficient parental guidance along with poor family relations can lead to a feeling disconnection and detachment in children, which has been linked to developing strategies for self-protection such as seeking admiration from others or having manipulative tendencies. Additionally, children with high levels of self-sufficient behavior may become more prone to seeking approval from external sources, subsequently leading to potential narcissistic traits.
Furthermore, accurate societal depictions of fame and success can trigger feelings of overconfidence in certain individuals once they experience minor successes within these realms. The internalization of such false conceptions will encourage these people to believe their personalities are superior to others and lead them towards narcissistic tendencies over time.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be difficult and complex. It takes an experienced mental health professional to properly assess an individual and decide whether they meet the criteria for a diagnosis. Furthermore, it is important to discuss the various treatment options available for those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This includes:
- Lifestyle changes
- Other interventions
Let’s take a look at the diagnosis and treatment of narcissism.
A narcissist is someone who generally has a grandiose view of themselves, an insatiable need for approval and excessive need for admiration. They may require excessive amount of attention and admiration from others, with little regard to the feelings or needs of others around them.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that there are nine criteria for diagnosing Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). These include:
- A grandiose sense of self-importance or exaggerating one’s abilities and achievements
- Preoccupation with fantasies about power, intelligence, beauty, ideal love or success
- Believing they are special while feeling entitled to respect or a sense of individual entitlement that cannot be achieved
- Exploiting or taking advantage of people to get what they want in order to feel superior
- Trouble being empathetic
- Jealousy towards other people, particularly those with something they don’t have or feel they should possess
- Displaying arrogance in their beliefs, behaviours and attitudes
- Inability to handle criticism well and reacts negatively instead of owning any failure
- Having a fragile perception of self worth which is heavily reliant on external validation from others.
If someone meets five out of the nine criteria set out by the DMS then it is likely that the person has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Qualified mental health professionals use clinical interviews, questionnaires and psychological tests to assess whether an individual meets this criteria in order to diagnose NPD.
When approaching treatment for someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), it is important to remember that narcissism is a spectrum disorder. Many people have NPD traits without having full-blown NPD. There are several possible treatment approaches for those affected.
Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is the best available treatment for someone with NPD. This should include both individual and group therapy, as well as family or couples counseling if deemed necessary. The primary goal of psychotherapy is to help the individual understand their own feelings and behaviors while accepting responsibility for their own actions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be used to help the person identify their thought patterns, attitudes and perspectives which are causing them stress or anxiety, in addition to helping them learn coping strategies and techniques which can help them manage their condition in daily life more efficiently.
Medication: Medication may also be prescribed to reduce some of the characteristics associated with NPD; medications such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics can help address depression, anxiety and irritability which may worsen symptoms or behaviors associated with NPD. However, this should only be done in conjunction with psychotherapy – medication dressed on its own has not been proven to significantly improve symptoms of NPD long-term.
Support Group: It may also be beneficial for those with milder forms of narcissism to find a support group who are in a similar situation or who can provide emotional support when needed – this is especially helpful if family members or close friends are negatively impacted by their behavior due to their NPD traits; having access to an empathetic understanding support group can often do wonders for both individuals affected by narcissistic personality disorder and those close to them.
The ultimate conclusion to the nature versus nurture debate as it relates to narcissistic behavior is that it is most likely a combination of both. People who develop this kind of behavior may be born with the underlying traits, but their environment and upbringing can also play a role in whether those personality traits manifest into narcissism.
Therefore, while there is no definitive answer, it is likely that both predisposing factors (nature) and environmental factors (nurture) play an important role in the development of narcissism.